Any list of the top chefs would be incomplete without the inclusion of Mario Batali. One of the most well-known and highly-regarded chefs in the industry, Mario is one of the first chefs to parlay his success in the kitchen into his own TV show where the chef (and not the food) is the star. Mario began his career as a sous chef at the Four Seasons, first at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, then at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. From there, he worked at Rocco’s in New York City before opening his solo venture Pó in 1993. The ensuing success of Pó led to his own TV show; “Molto Mario” ran for 8 years (1996-2004), spawned two different spinoffs and led to myriad other television appearances, and when it was all said and done, Mario had transformed the way the culinary arts were presented to the public.
Over the following years, Mario teamed up with Joe Bastianich (son of Lidia Bastianich, another member of this list) to form B&B Hospitality Group and open Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York City. Babbo’s list of accolades include a Michelin star, a three-star review from The New York Times, and a James Beard Foundation award for “Best New Restaurant of 1998.” Mario himself earned a GQ magazine “Man of the Year” profile mention, a D’Artagnan Cervena mention in their “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” list in 2001, three James Beard awards (“Best Chef: New York City” in 2002, “All-Clad Cookware Outstanding Chef Award” in 2005, and “Best Restaurateur” in 2008), and an induction into the Culinary Hall of Fame.
Specialties & Resources
Mario’s primary focus has always been on the Italian cuisine that he was raised on and studied extensively during his travels in Italy. (We recommend reading Bill Buford’s excellent book “Heat,” in which the author works in Batali’s kitchen and later travels to all the locations in Italy where Mario learned, studied and honed his craft.)
At Babbo, menu offerings include marinated fresh sardines with caramelized fennel and lobster oil; grilled octopus with “borlotti marinade” and spicy limoncello vinaigrette; steamed cockles with red chilies and basil; warm tripe “alla parmigiana”; roasted beet tartare with chianti vinegar and ricotta salata; testa with pickled pearls and thyme vinaigrette; warm lamb’s tongue vinaigrette with brown beech mushrooms and egg; goat cheese tortelloni with dried orange and wild fennel pollen; goose liver ravioli with balsamic vinegar and brown butter; beef carpaccio with arugula and white truffle fonduta; beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles; barbecued squab with roasted beet “farrotto” and porcini mustard; grilled lamb chops with broccoli rabe pesto, grilled onions and lemon yogurt; charred beef tongue with cavolo nero and white beans; deconstructed osso buco for two with saffron orzo, cavolo nero and chestnut gremolata; and fennel-dusted sweetbreads with sweet and sour onions, duck bacon and membrillo vinaigrette.